The Skellig Islands are some of the most beautiful, remote, and difficult places to visit in Ireland. The waiting list can be long, the weather can be unpredictable and the climb up to the ancient monastery is grueling — but, it’s worth it!
In this guide, we will be answering any questions you have about visiting these magical islands.
Visiting The Skellig Islands
The Skellig Islands consist of two Islands, Skellig Michael and Little Skellig. Little Skellig is closed to the public and is a protected colony for the seabirds who nest there.
Skellig Michael is home to the remnants of an Irish monastery that was built over 500 years ago. It is believed that the monks chose here for its sheer isolation so that they could wholly devote themselves to their faith.
Skelling Michael has always been popular with tourists but since appearing as the makeshift home of Luke Skywalker in the new Star War movies, it has exploded in popularity.
There are a number of Skellig Michael Tours to choose from but it is important to know that it is actually more of a lottery than a sure thing. The Island is perched 11 kilometres away from Ireland in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and the island is constantly being battered from all sides by the Atlantic Ocean.
When Can I Visit The Skellig Islands?
The Island is only accessible via the port town of Portmagee in the county of Kerry. The drive from Dublin takes about four hours and thirty minutes and there are a number of accommodation options and tour operators in the town.
Tour Operators run trips to the Skellig Islands between May- October as this is when the sea conditions are relatively calm. As this is a UNESCO World Heritage site, the amount of people allowed to visit the island is limited to 11,000 every year, with 180 people allowed on the island at any one time.
There are two types of tours you can do when it comes to visiting the Skellig Islands. Some tour operators can bring you on an Eco-Tour around the Island where you do not step foot on the island. This one can be booked with short notice. The other tour which sees you landing on Skellig Michael and exploring the island is a lot more in demand than the other one. Here is a list of all the operators that we know of who are running Skellig Michael tours:
Skelligs Rock provides Eco tours and Landing tours
The Skellig Experience provides contact information to the local fishermen who have the licenses to bring guests onto the island.
Casey’s Skellig Island Tours provides both Eco and Landing tours.
You can also check out the website Skellig Michael to book a tour and find out when the Landing Tour Licenses are released. This usually happens in late February/ early March.
Some people also like to book a tour alongside their accommodation and you can do this in The Moorings Hotel in Portmagee.
Nine Things You Should Know Before Travelling To Skellig Michael
- It’s important to remember that this is more of a lottery than a sure thing! Though you can book your trip for months in advance, it all depends on weather conditions on the day. If it is too wet or the ocean is too rough, then your trip will be cancelled.
- Most of the operators only accept cash so if it is a good idea to have cash prepared on the day.
- This tour is not for the faint of heart! Even on relatively calm days, the ocean can be very choppy. It will be a bumpy ride and there will be a good chance of experiencing seasickness.
- If your tour is cancelled, you will get a full refund. The chances are very slim that the landing tours will be rescheduled due to the busy nature of the season. Sometimes the Eco-tours can be rescheduled a few days past your booking date if you are still in the area.
- There are no facilities on Skellig Michael. Your boat may have a toilet but you won’t find anything on the island.
- The landing tour takes about six hours to get there and return. Because of that, it is recommended you bring a packed lunch with you.
- You should dress appropriately by wearing rain/ wave protection and a sturdy hiking shoe with good grip.
- You need to be in good shape to climb the 618 stone steps, children under the age of 12 are not allowed on the island. As well as this, getting from the boat onto the island can prove difficult.
- The stone steps are very steep and there are no safety railings so if you have a fear of heights you will need to take extra care.
What Is There To See on Skellig Michael?
The island is home to a whole host of wonderful and unique structures. After hiking up the stairs you will come across the ancient monastery where you will find oratories, a church, a graveyard and six beehive huts.
The beehive huts are very distinctive and built by piling the stones on top of each other and angling each layer in as you build. It is amazing that the stones are still standing to this day and a real testament to the ability of the builders. The huts really are quite breath-taking
The island is also home to a large sea bird population. The most famous would have to be the puffin and you can find them nesting on the island between April – July before they migrate overseas for eight months.
If you are a Star Wars fan you can even re-create some of your favourite scenes from the movie like this fella here did, check it out:
During climbing, you will also come across a very distinctive rock formation called The Wailing Woman. It is a very picturesque rock that juts out toward the ocean and well worth checking out!
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